Bad Bunny, Good Scapegoat: How 'El Conejo Malo' Is Stirring a 'Moral Panic' in Post-Hurricane Puerto Rico (Op-Ed)


The hottest artist to return out of Puerto Rico previously few years could also be 24-year-old international sensation Bad Bunny. But whilst he tops charts and sells out exhibits around the globe, again dwelling, he’s discovered himself on the heart of heated debates.

First, he grew to become the topic of controversy when Ricardo Rosselló, governor of Puerto Rico, turned to social media to ask him so as to add an extra native present after his first two concert events offered out in a matter of hours, “on behalf of the individuals of Puerto Rico." Local residents felt it was unseemly for the governor to be tweeting about rap concert events through the sophisticated strategy of post-hurricane restoration and debt restructuring. The singer himself mentioned there have been a lot higher points the governor must be specializing in, equivalent to the huge closing of faculties being carried out within the title of austerity.

Controversy broke out as soon as once more when a "annoyed schoolteacher" aired her anger in a Facebook put up: "How is it that I, as a trainer with years of formal schooling, barely handle to pay my payments, whilst you earn thousands and thousands by rhyming obscene phrases?" she requested. "Will the time come when nobody desires to study and so they’ll solely wish to write indecent lyrics? Will denigrating ladies be their largest accomplishment, and can our colleges shut??? Oh wait, that’s already occurring!!!” she posted.

Why would a schoolteacher lash out at Bad Bunny however not rail towards the present govt director of Puerto Rico’s fiscal management board, former Ukranian minister of finance Natalie Jaresko, who makes $625,000 per yr? Why, if she is fearful concerning the closing of faculties and the way forward for schooling, does she not ship her message to Puerto Rico’s secretary of schooling, Philadelphia native Julia Keleher? After all, as Bad Bunny identified in his reply to the trainer’s put up, he isn't the secretary of schooling.

Why, I questioned, is Bad Bunny the goal of a lot criticism and the imagined root of so many social issues?

It appears to me that the fury round him has turn into what sociologists name a "ethical panic”: a symbolic debate that embodies the issues of society and thru which the general public channels its considerations and re-establishes social norms. The major traits of an ethical panic are: 1) disproportionate worry of a perceived public risk; 2) media representations of the perceived risk that draw on frequent stereotypes that are simply acknowledged by an viewers that's already used to reproducing such discourses; and three) the usage of the ethical panic to bolster social norms or justify insurance policies that intensify hierarchies of race, class and gender. In the Bad Bunny debates, we are able to see every of those elements at play.

But who's Bad Bunny? Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio is the son of a retired trainer and a truck driver who started singing in church choir as a child. Benito studied communications at UPR-Arecibo whereas working part-time as a packer in a grocery store. From an early age, he confirmed curiosity in music and made his personal songs, which he shared on SoundCloud.

This background reveals fairly a bit: This supposed image of violence and criminality isn't a baby of the felony underworld, however slightly the product of a secure and supportive middle-class household. As such, his songs don't symbolize chronicles, however slightly fantasies of the underclass. This is quite common inside many well-liked music genres, during which exaggeration reigns amongst younger individuals looking for to symbolize themselves as heroic protagonists of what's in actuality a banal and stifling day-to-day existence. Perhaps because of this Bad Bunny so deeply stirs the fears of the Puerto Rican center class: He clearly displays their fantasies and their prejudices.

Some say Bad Bunny's lyrics are misogynistic and violent. Undoubtedly his songs typically fall into among the extra trite scripts of well-liked music: intercourse, medicine, cash, fame. But they aren't precise chronicles of violence; as an alternative they use metaphors of violence to speak about different traditional themes of well-liked music: love, indifference, betrayal and spite. For instance, within the music "Soy Peor," Bad Bunny declares that he has been betrayed and swears that he is not going to fall in love once more. The solely violence to which he alludes is when he says that out of spite, "compré una forty y a cupido se la vacié” ("I purchased a gun and shot up Cupid"). The video encompasses a man with a hood over his head tucked within the trunk of a automobile; later it's revealed that that is Bad Bunny himself, a hostage of his personal emotions. As with many Latin entice singers, what characterizes most Bad Bunny songs isn't actually violence, however unrequited love, heartbreak and different themes frequent in emo rap. 

Even the music "Chambea," the one most related to violence and glorification of weapons, is misleading. The video begins with an introduction by Ric Flair, former star of American wrestling -- the style par excellence of exaggeration and parody. In the video not a single weapon is proven. Instead one sees a bunch of mates vaping and enjoying Nintendo. As one listens fastidiously to the lyrics it turns into clear that the theme of the music isn't violence, however the faux bravado of those that faux to shoot, however don't have any bullets. It is true that the video exhibits stacks of cash and ladies dancing suggestively, however it additionally options Bad Bunny dancing round with pink glasses and a flowered go well with, whereas waving round a wrestling belt. It appears that what is well known right here isn't a lot the violence however the spectacle and performative guapería so emblematic of American wrestling, and of Latin American lucha libre.

Some say that his lyrics are lewd and symbolize ladies as mere intercourse objects. However, it might be argued that his music is extraordinarily "sex-positive," in that the emphasis isn't solely on male pleasure but additionally on feminine satisfaction. In "Diles," he tells his girl that when anybody asks why she’s with him, she ought to say it's as a result of he is aware of her favourite paths to satisfaction. 

The fact is that in the long run Bad Bunny’s songs aren't any extra scandalous than sure traditional ballads, that narrate infidelity, and feminine sexuality. Indeed, many elderly boleros have considerably extra violent lyrics, significantly with reference to home violence, however since they don’t use obscene language or bother conventional gender roles, they're thought-about “poetic.”

In addition, though he definitely has movies during which ladies dance round in bikinis, he additionally has others, like "Dime si te acuerdas," which options a few senior residents who reunite with nostalgia in a retirement dwelling. Throughout his movies Bad Bunny himself flaunts a historically queer aesthetic with painted nails, flamboyant glasses, pastel colours, quick shorts, and different fashion decisions that bother conventional paradigms of masculinity. Although he has not recognized as something however heterosexual, many queer-identified youth discover in his look a sure solidarity with their very own transgressions of conventional gender scripts. This may additionally be feeding into the bigger ethical panic that surrounds him.

One of Bad Bunny’s most up-to-date hits, "Estamos Bien," has triggered a stir for various causes. Some argue that the music’s assertion of every part being “OK” conceals the troubles of Post-Hurricane Puerto Rico behind a facade of happiness and positivity. But the very fact is that when Bad Bunny carried out the music on The Tonight Show, he instantly reproached Donald Trump for minimizing and denying the post-hurricane demise rely. It is simply after addressing the president that he then says, "But what? Estamos Bien. [We’re good.]" In this second "Estamos Bien" isn't an anthem of escapism, however of perseverance. It is a part of the soundtrack of a individuals powered restoration the place 1000's have raised their very own roofs, fed their very own communities, and searched for tactics to outlive and persevere within the face of institutional abandonment.

Given all this we should thus ask: Who advantages from the ethical panics surrounding Bad Bunny? And who's at biggest threat of biggest hurt? 

Certainly, whereas distracted with the concept of Bad Bunny’s unfavorable affect on younger individuals, it's simple to overlook concerning the closing colleges, the shrinking college system, and the dearth of alternatives accessible for latest faculty graduates on the island. When fretting over the violence of city music we steal consideration from the truth that we nonetheless don’t know the names or actual variety of the 1000's killed by authorities failure within the wake of the hurricane. And once we preoccupy ourselves debating the tradition of misogyny evident in musical lyrics, we fail to deal with the truth that each eight days a girl is murdered in Puerto Rico, that gender violence has elevated since Hurricane Maria, and that sexual abuse haunts the biography of even the best of public officers in each Puerto Rico and the United States. 

Moral panics over musical genres promote the concept social issues can in the end be defined and handled on the stage of cultural manufacturing and consumption, slightly than by addressing bigger structural points. But it's the structural and infrastructural violence being skilled by Puerto Ricans earlier than and after Maria which must be the true scandal and main preoccupation of a involved public, slightly than the lyrics of a 24-year-old who sings about being okay whereas dancing round in pink glasses. 

A Spanish-language model of this visitor put up initially ran in El Nuevo Dia.